Walter Hutchins, a well-known historian from Louisville, Kentucky, has died. He was 91.
The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (KCAAH) confirmed his passing on social media.
“With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of a beloved community leader, Baba Walter Hutchins. Walter was a valuable KCAAH board member who contributed his time and wisdom,” the organization wrote in the Facebook post on Nov. 18.
“Baba” is a term of respect that means “father” and is derived from many of the African languages in southern Africa.
The post continued, “One who has lived a life like Baba Walter never truly dies but crosses a bridge into eternal life as an ancestor. May it ease our sadness a bit to know that the memories of Baba Walter will be yet another bridge between our world and the world of our ancestors.”
Hutchins’ cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Here are five things to know.
Hutchins was born in 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University. He got involved in the Civil Rights Movement he told the Kentucky Oral Society in 1999.
“I was with CORE, for those who don’t remember, it is the Congress of Racial Equality. And we were primarily working on fair housing and adequate housing, and any kind of housing. That was our chief focus at that time, in the early sixties,” he said.
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He was living in Louisville when he died. He had become a beloved community educator and became best known for publishing yearly calendars and annual booklets on Black cultural events in the state, the Courier-Journal reports.
In 2016, he teamed with local historians to create the 22-stop Self-Guided Tour of Louisville’s Civil Rights History, the Courier-Journal reported.
“I suggested to some people, how would it be if somebody made a list of everything that was going to go on in February, in Black History Month. They said, ‘That would be good. Make sure you send me one,’” Hutchins told the Courier Journal.
He produced the calendar for 28 years, from 1992 to 2020. The calendar highlighted Black cultural events happening during Black History Month.
His son, Imar Hutchins, said his father was “trying to address a need that he saw.”
“Namely that was not just keeping alive, [but] bringing back to life a lot of history that was under people’s noses, but they were unaware of or not even known, much celebrated in any way,” said Imar, a Washington, D.C.-based artist, adding that his father’s work included historical tours, postcards, and collaborations with local Black-led organizations.
He said his father was passionate about history, and that he spread that love to others.
“He instilled [that love for history] in a lot of people,” Imar said. “He’s one of those conduit-type of spirits, like a griot, the kind of spirit that keeps the history alive.”
Hutchins wanted to help educate the community about Black history and before his calendar became available in every branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, he initially made it available for free at Republic Banks and the Actors Theatre of Louisville, according to the Courier-Journal.
In 2005, received the Louisville Historical League’s Heritage Award. This award is given to individuals and groups “who have contributed to local history in a significant manner since 1977,” according to LHL’s official website.
He also sat on the board of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville. The center’s executive director Aukram Burton considered Hutchins a mentor.
“He had love for his people, love for his history, the history of his people, and he was dedicated to making sure that history was passed on,” Burton told WFPL. “Baba Walter was a fantastic person. I’ve learned so much from him… and I will miss him.”
Historian Walter Hutchins, The Courier-Journal screenshot, https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2022/11/20/black-historian-walter-hutchins-dies-at-91-in-louisville/69665568007/